Connecticut board votes against banning books after acrimonious debate over sexual content

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut board of education has voted two keep two books on its town's high school shelves after weeks of acrimonious debate over book-banning that culminated in the resignation of two Republican board members.

The remaining members of the Newtown Board of Education unanimously agreed Thursday night on a compromise motion that rejected banning the books “Blankets” by Craig Thompson and “Flamer" by Mike Curato, with the caveat that school administrators create a process “to support choices of individual parents and guardians” on whether their children will have access to the books.

As with similar debates across the country, some parents had called for banning the books because of their sexual content. School officials in March said they received nine official complaints against “Flamer” and one against “Blankets.”

“Blankets” is an autobiographical story that deals in part with sexual abuse. “Flamer,” around which much of the debate was centered, is a semi-autobiographical graphic novel about a young man coming to terms with his homosexuality.

Republican board members Janet Kuzma and Jennifer Larkin resigned amid the controversy on Wednesday. Larkin cited the need for a better work-life balance, while Kuzman addressed the controversy, citing in her resignation letter “abhorrent” behavior by people attending public meetings.

“I am resigning due to the complete lack of condemnation of this behavior by leadership at all levels,” wrote Kuzman, who had proposed a compromise that would have required all students 16 and younger to receive written parental permission before reading the books.

“I pray for our community to regain a sense of civility in the face of differing opinions,” she added.

Both sides of the issue reported being harassed by those with opposing opinions.

The Newtown Republican Town Committee issued a statement Thursday saying, “There is something horribly wrong in our community when town volunteers and even private citizens who send an email, speak at a meeting or write a letter to the editor are subject to harassment.”

Librarian Suzanne Hurley said at a May 2 meeting that she and her colleagues had been accused of negligence and incompetence by “keyboard warriors.”

The number of attempts to ban or restrict books across the U.S. last year was the highest in the 20 years the American Library Association has been tracking such efforts.

EveryLibrary, a national political action committee, said it’s tracking at least 121 different proposals introduced in state legislatures this year targeting libraries, librarians, educators and access to materials.

During the debate in Connecticut, school officials noted that “Flamer” has been in the school library since last year and has never been checked out. “Blankets” has been at the library since 2013 and was checked out once, they said.

Before Thursday's vote, Newtown board member Allison Plante, a Democrat, acknowledged fatigue over the issue.

“This process has monopolized our time and attention for two months," said Plante, who proposed the compromise that was approved. “Please, please support this motion.”